Michelle and Bejean Souferian had been trying for years to have a baby. Then came Carmageddon. Now they and other couples who conceived after staying home in July 2011 -- when the 405 Freeway was shutdown -- are speculating about a Carmageddon-induced baby boom in the Los Angeles area. Doctors at Cedars Sinai Medical Center say prenatal classes are more full than normal, but Supervisor Zev Yaroslavksy is skeptical. Robert Kovacik reports.
The next time you’re stuck on one of the world’s busiest freeways, just think about those who are thrilled the 405 once came to a complete halt.
“I am very happy Carmageddon happened,” said Michelle Souferian, who is due to give birth at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center any day.
Well, not just any day: 40 weeks after the 405 freeway closed for the first time in 50 years for a construction project.
Cedars-Sinai, where more babies are born west of the Mississippi than anywhere else in the country, worked exclusively with NBC 4 News to try and determine if there will be a post-Carmageddon uptick in the birthrate.
The answer? Maybe.
“Our prenatal classes are fuller than they often are, so it may be a premonition that there might be more women delivering nine months after Carmageddon,” said Dr. Sarah Kilpatrick, chair of the OB/GYN department.
Carmageddon, the nickname for closing the 405 freeway from July 16 -18 last year, threatened to be a disaster of biblical proportions for car-crazy Los Angeles.
Bejan Souferian raced home to West LA early from his Van Nuys security company, Scotland Entry Systems. He and Michelle heeded the warnings of officials to stay put.
“We stayed home the whole weekend cause we worried, like everybody else, that we would get stuck,” Michelle said.
Married for five years, the Souferians had been trying to get pregnant for the last 4.5 years. Then, came Carmageddon weekend.
“It was a shock to both of us,” Michelle said turning to her husband, “that this happened”
Could it be a Carmageddon miracle?
Obstetrician Dr. Robert Katz will deliver the Souferian’s baby boy. The doctor said it wasn’t a miracle. Rather, it was a matter of taking the pressure off.
“When people relax, whether they are vacationing or whether the freeway is closed down, they do have more of a chance than when everybody’s stressed out.”
Katz, who has been in practice 23 years, said couples who conceived that weekend would have a due date of April 9.
But “Carmageddon baby” Aunjanue Flanagan arrived weeks earlier at Cedars than originally expected. She’s now home in Hollywood where mom, Dina, reflects that she and her husband,
Tommy, didn’t plan on having a baby. Then again, they didn’t have plans during Carmageddon.
“We weren’t going anywhere,” she said. “We had no plans dealing with any kind of traffic.”
On July 18, when Carmageddon turned out to be a non-event, LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, told the nation: “Carmageddon Schmarmageddon.”
As for Carmageddon leading to a blessed event across Southern California, Yaroslavsky, might as well say, “Baby boom. Schmayby boom.”
“I’m skeptical,” he said. “They said the same thing about the power failure back in New York City in the 1960s. Turned out to be a myth. I suspect it will turn out to be a myth here.”
In just a matter of months, the 405 will be empty again. Yes, Carmageddon is coming back.
A sequel is set for the summer, and for hopeful parents, Michelle and Bejan said: “Stay home and do what we did.”